The SoCon is about to get blown up. We all know it. College of Charleston left a year ago. Davidson, Elon, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are leaving. Mercer, ETSU and VMI are joining.
We all know that. I've written about this before so it's nothing new. It's something I've written about in this very space before.
But now, the intrigue starts to build. Mercer is currently first in the Atlantic Sun. ETSU is third. VMI currently leads their division Big South. That means that there is a chance (and it is not a good chance, but it is out there) that two of the teams joining the SoCon next year could be coming off of NCAA Tournament championships. That might be an actual upgrade to the perception of the SoCon.
The biggest thing left on the table for the current SoCon is that someone sticking in the SoCon needs to come up with the SoCon championship. The interesting thing about how the current standings set up is this- Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Davidson, and Elon all sit in the top half of the bracket. That means that either Western Carolina needs to represent, or one of the leaving schools will be in the final....against a team not leaving.
That would create a deeply intriguing Southern Conference Championship Game. A game for the SoCon to fight to keep the championship in house or let it go.
But regardless, these final weeks of saying good-bye to the old SoCon members will be very interesting. It's not easy to say good-bye to some of these teams. Davidson has been such a great SoCon team over the years. Honestly, if you think about the SoCon without any other team, but keeping Davidson to go along with Mercer, ETSU and VMI joining, it is easy to see the SoCon being significantly stronger. A resurgent Chattanooga, a solid Wofford program, programs in UNCG and Samford that are not there yet, but look like they are growing. There is a lot to like in the SoCon. It's unfortunate that we won't have Davidson with us to make it even better.
Regardless, the SoCon is in decent shape in the future. I'll be carefully watching the Atlantic Sun and the Big South to see if there are one, two or three NCAA participants in the SoCon in 2014-15.
Team To Watch This Week
Elon has two challenging games this week that will help determine the seedings below the bye line and also will help define the set up for the top five teams in the bye. This week, the Phoenix go to UNCG on Wednesday and then go to Georgia Southern on Saturday. Given the positioning for UNCG and Georgia Southern, the Phoenix will play a huge role in those seedings. The Phoenix are also in a war for the second and third seed. They need to get both of these because the last week they may be the team to watch too....hosting Wofford and Davidson.
Something You Should Know....But May Not
The top five teams in the SoCon have kind of separated themselves. They are a combined 47-13 in SoCon play and seem well positioned to each lock up a bye. The key in the conference tournament is being able to beat good teams. Performance against them so far has no bearing on beating them again, but it is still interesting to analyze the performance of teams so far against the top five teams in SoCon play. I'll also include their remaining games against top five teams.
Teams listed in order of record and, if tied, then current conference standing:
Chattanooga 4-1 (at Western Carolina)
Davidson 3-1 (Wofford, at Elon)
Elon 2-2 (Wofford, Davidson)
Wofford 1-3 (at Davidson, at Elon)
Samford 2-6 (at Elon, Western Carolina)
Western Carolina 1-4 (Chattanooga)
UNCG 0-5 (Elon, Chattanooga, at Davidson, at Wofford)
Appalachian State 0-6 (Western Carolina, at Chattanooga)
Georgia Southern 0-6 (at Chattanooga, Elon)
Furman 0-6 (at Wofford, Elon)
The Citadel 0-7 (at Western Carolina)
This means, not surprisingly, that Chattanooga and Davidson have done the best job against elite competition of the SoCon. Those are the top two teams in the SoCon standings, so that comes as little surprise. The Mocs have had people criticizing them and doubting them, but looking at this, there is little doubt that they belong in the discussion at the top of the conference.
The more interesting thing is that Samford has as many wins against top five teams as Wofford and Western Carolina combined. They have as many wins as Elon does. They also have played eight games against the top five teams, more than any other team in the SoCon. Samford is a team that is underappreciated and can easily pull off a couple of upsets in Asheville. They are currently the only team not in the top five that has beaten a top five team, and they have beaten two. That's strong company for the Bulldogs.
The other interesting thing is UNCG. The Spartans have not beaten a top five team yet, going 0-5. They are playing each of their last four games against a team from the top five. That is a major challenge for the Spartans as they hunt down the highest seed they can possibly get.